A Late Unschooler: My Teenage Daughter Begged To Be Taken Out Of School

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unschoolingAfter April Grunspan‘s teenage daughter, Alana, started the 10th grade, the 15-year-old pleaded to be removed from school. The student with a 3.0-3.5 GPA, as her mother remembers, said that she felt her time in the classroom was being wasted. She wanted to be homeschooled. The sophomore attested that she was capable of learning much more on her own.

April describes “the seed of her discontent” as a single trip that had taken place the year before.

“When she was in 9th grade, she was one of 26 students from around the world chosen to participate in The Jason Project as a Student Argonaut. When she came home after spending 11 days at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and in the field, working with senior scientists and fellow Argonauts, she told us she learned more during those 11 days than she had all year in school.”

The mother says that following that experience, her daughter’s days in the classroom seemed longer and less productive as time pressed on. School was visibly making Alana depressed so April resolved to simply pull her out. The teenager then spent the next 10 months “deschooling,” April says. Alana slept, watched science shows and Court TV, read books, and continued her love of dancing. In that time period, Alana’s parents decided on unschooling — a subdivision of homeschooling in which Alana would decide which arenas in which to educate herself and April and her husband would provide the resources.

Within those deschooling months, Alana announced that she wanted to learn American Sign Language and began taking classes at a local community college. The teen also continued to mentor for the Jason Project and was then asked to sit on their organizing committee because of her mentorship efforts. Eventually Alana advanced beyond those American Sign Language classes and continued to study at the Rochester School for the Deaf. All the while, she remained self-motivated and self-directed while April supplemented her education with book recommendations. As a parent, she noticed a difference in her daughter’s temperament right away.

“First, and most importantly, she became happier and more confident in her abilities. Her writing improved, as did her vocabulary. She was no longer forced to relate only to people her own age, being treated as a subordinate in the classroom. In the real world, she communicated with educators, scientists, and other adults as peers, allowing her to develop as an adult rather than as a supervised ‘child,'” April remembers.

The mother of two also located a certification program, allowing her daughter to become a qualified dance teacher through Dance Masters of America.

“It was a good way for her to earn a living doing something she loved, dancing,” April reasons.

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